Thanjavur and it’s Carnatic Music Legacy

thavil - carnatic music instrument

Thanjavur, also known as Tanjor, is a historically rich city settled on the scenic banks of the Cauvery River in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. The city is eclipsed by the great Brihadeeswarar temple built by the king Raja Raja Chola in 1010 AD. It has been declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is where much of the art and architecture of the Chola dynasty reached its pinnacle – and still exists.

The city is also the birthplace of the famed Tanjore Quartet (four brothers said to be responsible for the development of Carnatic music and Bharatnatyam). Though the origins of classical Indian music has been linked to the Vedic times and Gods like Narada, the form of music we see today was originally popularised during the 13th and 14th centuries by Purandaradasa, under the patronage of the Vijayanagar kings.

The traditional legacy and ancestral heritage of Thanjavur has percolated into modern times and can be seen in the arts and culture of the city. Classical Carnatic music, exquisite Thanjavur paintings, and culturally rich festivals are some of the unique Thanjavur art forms still in place today. Original Thanjavur paintings incorporated gold leaf and precious and semi-precious stones to create glittering masterpieces.

Carnatic music had taken a firm foothold in Thanjavur by the 16th century under the benign rules of the Nayak kings. The city still represents the celebration of its rich musical history with regular Carnatic Classical Music Festivals which are honored with great enthusiasm. Every year, the festival is celebrated in the Thiruvaiyaru region of Thanjavur. The local indigenes have a strong base in cultural music and await these events with exuberance.

The traditional Carnatic musical instruments, the Veena, and the Thavil cast a magical spell over the audience with their enchanting melodies. The Thanjavur ‘Veena’ instrument has changed very little since ancient times. Perfecting a fluent melody out of this instrument requires years of practice and the intent is to create a sound that is as smooth and clear as the human voice. The best place to buy this instrument is from Thanjavur itself. Jagadeesan here is a fifth-generation Veena maker, a profession which is fast fading away.

The Carnatic Classical Music festival is attended by enthusiasts from far and wide. The best place to stay is in the heritage Sangam hotel, a luxury hotel that offers the aesthetic essence of the regions art and cultural history. Nearby Trichy provides the nearest airport with Thanjavur being well-connected by good rail and road connections too.

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